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Pakistan floods

Updated: Mon, 8 Apr 2013

At A GlanceBack to top

Severe flooding has affected millions in Pakistan over the past three years.

The 2010 floods were the country’s worst in recorded history. They killed more than 2,000 people and affected 18 million – more than a tenth of the population.

A massive cascade of waters, triggered by heavy monsoon rains in late July, swept through the Indus River basin, washing away homes, roads, bridges, crops and livestock. It ploughed a swathe of destruction from north to south and submerged one-fifth of the country.

The flooding devastated parts of northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in Pakistan's war against Taliban insurgents. People in the Swat Valley – who had been trying to rebuild their lives following a massive military operation against the Taliban in 2009 – were particularly badly affected.

The southern Punjab and Sindh provinces, where the majority of Pakistanis live, were also badly affected.

An estimated 11 million people were made homeless by the disaster.

The floods destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of cultivatable land and crops in the traditional food-basket regions of Sindh and Punjab, and many farmers lost their seeds. In some areas the water stagnated on the surface for months, making planting difficult.

And at least 1.2 million livestock died, crippling poor families who depended on them for food and draught power, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

The price of vegetables and other foods rose, making it harder for ordinary people to survive.

The country suffered more than $10 billion in damages to infrastructure, irrigation systems, bridges, houses and roads.

SLOW AID

The authorities and aid agencies struggled to help the survivors, many of whom lost everything and said they received no warnings that raging waters were heading their way. Many were forced to live in wretched conditions beside roads, sleeping in the open with little food or clean water.

Fears of a second wave of deaths caused by water- and insect-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria eased as the floodwaters receded.

Aid organisations and the government were criticised for being too slow to respond, while the military – the most powerful institution in Pakistan – took the lead in relief operations.

With the government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, charities linked to Islamist militants were quick to step in with help. Pakistan promised to clamp down on these charities amid fears their involvement in flood relief would undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.

The United Nations issued an appeal for $460 million in August. Speaking at a special U.N. meeting on Aug. 19, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the crisis "one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times."

Major donors included the United States – which gives billions of dollars in military aid to help Islamabad fight Taliban and al Qaeda fighters along the Afghan border – Britain and the European Union.

However, donors’ concerns about the country’s widespread corruption and lack of transparency slowed disbursal of funds.

2011 FLOODS

Pakistan was woefully unprepared for the 2011 monsoon season. All along the Indus River, dikes and embankments were incomplete, while international donations for preparedness fell short. Sindh was especially vulnerable to new flooding.

Although a repeat of the 2010 deluge didn’t occur, the smaller floods caused widespread damage and set back reconstruction efforts, experts said.

About 5.4 million people were affected in Sindh and Baluchistan and parts of Punjab.

The United Nations said it had been working hard to stockpile food, water and tents in case of flooding. More than 3 million people received food aid, and 450,000 families moved into emergency shelters, OCHA said.

2012 FLOODS

About 4.8 million people were affected by monsoon floods that hit the country in 2012. Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces were the hardest-hit areas.

By the end of March 2013, water had receded in most areas, but standing water in parts of Sindh was still preventing some people from returning home.

Many families still need help to rebuild their lives and farms, as well as tents and bedding, and more than 400,000 people need food aid, a U.N. report said in April 2013.

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